Kevin Fiala is enjoying a career-high performance this season with the Minnesota Wild. However, the club's salary-cap crunch starting next season could make it difficult to retain the 25-year-old winger.
Fiala enters this week sitting third among Wild scorers with 24 goals and 63 points. Cap Friendly indicates he'll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer after coming off a one-year, $5.1-million contract.
Starting next season, last summer's combined buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will take up a combined $12.7 million from the Wild's $82.5 million payroll for 2022-23. That leaves them with a projected $8.18 million to sign or replace Fiala and their other five free agents.
Fiala's performance has him in line for a significant raise, perhaps between $6 million and $7.5-million annually. That prompted Daily Faceoff's Chris Gear to examine the Wild's options to keep the winger in the fold.
If the Wild can get Fiala signed for around $6 million, Gear suggested making trading a $3-million forward such as Jordan Greenway or Marcus Foligno to free up sufficient cap room. Either guy would be easier to move given their affordable salaries and lack of no-trade protection.
Should Fiala seek over $7-million annually, Gear proposed shopping a higher-priced veteran like Matt Dumba or Mats Zuccarello.
The 27-year-old Dumba is a top-pairing defenseman who would draw considerable interest in the trade market. However, he's a year away from UFA eligibility with a $6-million cap hit and a 10-team no-trade clause.
Zuccarello, 34, also has a $6-million annual average value and a 10-team no-trade list. His age and the two seasons remaining on his contract would make him hard to move than Dumba.